getting fedup with the biz

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by guitarkid, Oct 31, 2006.

  1. guitarkid

    guitarkid TPF Noob!

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    i have a day job and started doing video production about 5 years ago because i love working with it so much. not to be conceited, but we are one of the best production houses in the area, which makes this story more disturbing. we take pride in our work and are by no means a cookie-cutter shop. all digital, filming and editing, FX, DVD authoring, etc. i have spent too much of my personal funds to advertise for it. the most biz we saw was about 5 weddings and 2 bands per year. i made no money. i do it for the love of it, but i have to tell you, that only takes you so far after 5 years.

    fedup, i turn to photography. i have been into photography, video and audio engineering for about 12 years. i decide to upgrade photography stuff and really push that. we got 8 weddings in the first 6 monhts. hey, that's great but they were all SMALL WEDDINGS! either on tight budgets or only needing 4 hours coverage. only made $450 per wedding. that money went into the biz.

    our photos are really very nice, and we are learning all the time, just like everyone else. i offer online proofing and ordering, wedding albums, always have 2 photographers for the price of one, and i have even included all photos on CD! am i too expensive? too cheap?

    i don't get why studios are raking in the clients at $1800-$2500 and they get no album and no photos! i'm charging $1600 and i include a leather proofbook and all photos on CD with 2 photographers! i always seem to get the cheap $450 weddings...table scraps. IF i get calls or emails, i never hear from most of them again. being in video, i created a beautiful photo montage of some photos set to music for mailing out to potentials when they inquire. still NOTHING!

    i realize the market is full but i only get about 4 inquiries a month. only 1 wedding comes through once every couple months IF I'M LUCKY. i'm spending more money than i'm making. i want to rely on word-of-mouth but since we have only done photography for 6 months, that won't happen much. i advertise in the knot......that's a joke. tried modern bride, thinking it would be huge! i canceled that contract after 6 months....never 1 call or 1 email !!

    is anyone else in the same boat? should i raise my rates to be $2000 ?? $3000 ?? then will i be taken seriously?

    this bride came over last week to meet in person. she saw the site, the photos, the pricing, talked to me on the phone twice, and was very interested. she comes over and says "we'll think about it and let you know." i don't get that! why waste my time or yours. she saw the pricing and the site and the work before she came over. what are we doing wrong? and we're in chicago serving the city and burbs. people getting married all over.

    stressed,

    Steve
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Raising your prices may work. By having lower prices than a lot of the competition...you are targeting the lower end of the market. People with money to spend, may assume (from the price) that your work is not high quality.

    On the other hand, I've been reading that a lot of wedding photographers are having to lower their prices or shut down...the digital revolution seems to have brought an influx of photographers into the market...at all skill levels.

    Maybe you need to work on your closing...I'm not sure what to recommend.
     
  3. guitarkid

    guitarkid TPF Noob!

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    Mike, you are right. as i have said many times before, anyone with a computer (most people) and a nice digital camera (growing) is a photographer. It's nowhere like back in the day with countless lab issues and negatives and proofbooks to be put together and each photo stamped with the co. info on the back. i remember those days working in a wedding studio when i was 17. times are different. i know a couple photographers in my area that are turning down work. they charge high money and are not really that good. i don't get it. not the best work for lots of money or really nice thorough work for less money.

    i have seen her promo too by the way. she sends JPGs on a cd that says MEMOREX or TDK and writes with black sharpie.....photo samples. WHAT? unpro tacky. meanwhile, i'm printing direct to CD.
     
  4. KevinR

    KevinR TPF Noob!

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    Although I am just starting out again (used to shoot alot of freelance in the early 90s) And have not really targeted weddings yet (although have shot a few) I have seen a few photogs that moved upscale and started booking more. If you think you have enough of a portfolio from some of these cheaper weddings, than cut those off. Raise prices. What I think you will find is that the brides you see may want to dicker on the price, then you now have some fudge room to do this. By dropping a couple hundred bucks off a more expensive package turns into a win/win situation. Think about investing in setting up a booth at some wedding shows with some strong ad verts at the booth. Make it visual appealing, don't make your pamphlets to big and give out candy. You may be surprised at how many calls you get.
     
  5. niccig

    niccig TPF Noob!

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    I agree with Mike and Kevin- raising your prices would probably help. All the pro studios around here (central KY) are charging $1500, and it only goes up from there. I got married in May, and we paid $400 for our photographer - an art student at Murray State, and a friend of my now-sis-in-law. We were definitely on a tight budget, so we had to sacrifice experience for a good price (fortunately we didn't have to sacrifice quality though). I only found one photographer in the area who had prices for under $1000 - that one was something like $350 for just a CD of digital negs. My initial reaction was "If they're that cheap, they can't be that good." Now I realize they were probably building their portfolio or some such, but I had no way of knowing that then.

    I'm not a wedding photographer (just an art student for now), so all my advice comes from a bride's perspective, keeping in mind that I was photog-shopping before I really knew more about photography than you have to push the button.

    #1 Advertise - I wanted really good photos of my wedding (and I got them, btw), but I was also dealing with the caterer, the reception site, the baker, buying a dress, and I did my own decorations - all on top of working full-time. My search for a photographer consisted of looking at the yellow pages, a quick search on Google, and asking family for references (which is how I found my photographer).

    #2 Have a great website - I looked at quite a few photographer websites, and if it didn't look professional, or it wasn't easy to find the information I wanted, I didn't spend much time on it, and definitely didn't contact them. My assumption was that if they didn't care enough about their business to try to make a good first impression, then that would be reflected in their service

    #3 Customer service - If I emailed someone for more info and they took more than a day or two to respond, I moved on. I didn't want to deal with someone who I might or might not be able to get in touch with when it was important.

    I think going to bridal shows would be good. I went to a couple, and it was an absolute SEA of women about to get married. I hear it's expensive, but I can't think of anywhere else you're going to find that many prospective clients corralled into one place. You may also be able to work out a deal with other wedding vendors in the area, where they recommend you (or just keep a stack of your business cards on their front counter) in return for the same from you. For example, our reception site recommended a caterer and DJ to us. We didn't end up using those vendors (because we weren't that impressed with them once we met them), but they were the first people we called. I've also heard of other people working out deals with other photographers for overflow business - if they're too busy, they recommend you as an alternate choice and vice versa. That probably works better if you're already friends with the other photographer though...

    You may also try offering something that the other people aren't - if everyone's doing digital, offer silver prints, or something like that. It may raise your costs, but you'll be able to raise your prices since it's better than everyone else.
     
  6. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    The above posts are definitely sage advice. I do commercial/editorial work so I may not know what I am talking about here.

    Consider that "nice" photos will get you nowhere. Especially if the market is saturated. Clients hire on creativity. Folks walking in off the street need to be "wowed" especially if it is their wedding day. For that they are willing to pay anything.
     
  7. guitarkid

    guitarkid TPF Noob!

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    great advice guys. thanks. i think i may raise the prices again. customer service is VERY IMPORTANT TO ME. i don't like to wait either. i am ALWAYS on the pc so if an email comes through i respond to it within 5 minutes. it always blows them away. and i ask for a mailing address to send a DVD promo to if they are interested. it's in the mail that day. maybe it freaks them out that i'm so fast...who knows. we incorporate standard and candid / journalistic (hate that word) approaches in photography and are very creative. i always include some black and white as copies and black and white / colored bouquet in there for free. creativity runs our shots. i don't like to limit it to journalistic only or standard only. i know some photographers who have turned down gigs because the bride wanted backdrop shots and the photographer would not do it. why not? it's what they want. anyway, this is great advice. my joke is that if i GIVE EVERYTHING AWAY AND WORK TOTALLY FOR FREE!!!! i still wouldn't get the gigs. it's a joke. time will tell but for now i'm not going to actively pursue it / beat myself up over it. i have chalked it up to; it's their loss. just rely on magazine ads and word of mouth and website and in the meantime, get back to guitar, that i have longgggg been keeping on the back burner. i need to start working on a new album anyway.
     
  8. newrmdmike

    newrmdmike TPF Noob!

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    marketing and promoting is about 80% of my work, and maybe 20% is spent shooting, or even less. promotion is EVERYTHING. if your not marketing to the right croud. and my experience has been that jobs don't generally come to me, i go to them. the first five years of business however you would be doing well to just cover the costs.

    own your zip code, get good ad space, start a blog, etc.

    i'm promoting the crap out of myself at the moment with a blog i just started as well as a website, i hand out flyers, call people, put up posters etc.

    pretty people for advertising really helps alot to, and i have discounts for people who refer others, etc.

    Its been tons of work, and it doesn't feel like i really get back what i put in, but the jobs have been coming at an increased rate now.
     
  9. sylph

    sylph TPF Noob!

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    I'm not a wedding photographer either.... but... I'm going to touch on some points that the above poster made...


    #1 Advertise - Yes, how are you advertising? Is your website optimized for search engines? Have you learned all about search engine optimization? Do you use a statcounter so you can track what keywords people are searching to find you on Google, etc. with?

    #2 Have a great website - Yes, this is more important than you may think in today's world. My website brings me TONS of business... my website is usually the reason why people book, and I am working on a new website at this moment, hoping to launch it next week.

    #3 Customer service - Yes, this is important - this is an area I need to work on myself.... :confused:

    Like someone else mentioned, if you are competing with only pricing, you are probably getting the "looking for a deal" customer. I raised up my prices and lost customers but gained BIG customers... I'm raising again this month...

    Again, I don't know the wedding market inside and out but there are certain trends... and perception is everything... seriously, get your business perceived as "exclusive" and "expensive" and you hit a better-spending market. I can't get over the fact that you are only making $450 per wedding... my portrait customers generally spend at least $1,000 each for a two-hour shoot and their prints.
     
  10. guitarkid

    guitarkid TPF Noob!

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    sylph, great suggestions too...thanks. the $450 comes from the hourly rate i charge. if someone only needs 3 hours for a small wedding, i charge $150 per hour, minimum 3 hours. That is where the $450 comes in. I put all photos up for online proofing and that is all. I think I will up the pricing. Right now the smallest I have is $900 for 5 hours coverage. That is for couples who don't require an all day shoot. I think I may change the pricing AGAIN.
     
  11. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I started a wedding photography class last night. The instructor pushed the concept of higher prices...quite a bit. The average price in my area is $1500-$2000...and he said that there is no reason we should think of charging less than that.
     
  12. newrmdmike

    newrmdmike TPF Noob!

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    my thoughts on that are also that by not charging the going rate your hurting the industry, and are making it harder for everyone to charge as much as they do. don't sell yourself short. jerrry ghionis and bambi cantrell both tought the same thing. i would say they are saying that so they can do better themselves, except its good for you as well, and that price range automatically may ensure you the type of client you want
     

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